Pakistani Journalists in the Hot Seat
Last month, as the very public scandal of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son broke out, not only did the chief justice himself suffer the consequences but everyone felt the backlash – including the media. Conspirators took to Pakistan’s current favourite forum, the social media, to discredit and “expose” journalists who have allegedly taken bribes from the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz Hussain. Initially, a list of 7 journalists made its rounds across Pakistan via email and SMS messages; subsequently a more extensive list of 19 journalists was released on YouTube. The list included the names of some of the most credible journalists in Pakistan on a Bahria Town letterhead, along with specific amounts of money, the bank account numbers, the money that was transferred to them and/or the plots of land that they allegedly received from Riaz. And as if that were not enough to damage the credibility of the Pakistani media, on June 14 behind-the-scenes footage of Meher Bokhari and Mubasher Lucman’s interview with Riaz on Dunya TV was also released on YouTube. In the 30-minute long video, the two talk show hosts are shown discussing what questions should be asked next, along with other incriminating information such as Lucman demanding, “Give me a villa like you did Hamid Mir.”
The media has come under severe scrutiny and censure from the public following this scandalous “revelation” and questions are being raised about the credibility of some of the most credible journalists in the media. Are some journalists, indeed, on the payroll of characters like Malik Riaz? Or are the political parties ganging up against some of the most critical voices in the media and trying to gag them, or generally running character-assassination campaigns against them to curb freedom of speech. Or alternately, is this the work of the infamous ‘third force?’
Newsline interviewed some of the journalists featured on that list of 19, to get their version of the story.
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